NASA’s Perseverance has marked its first year on Mars by breaking the record for distance covered by a rover on another planet. On February 14, just a few days short of its anniversary, the rover traveled almost 320 meters (1,050 feet).
On top of that, it did the whole drive using AutoNav, special self-driving software that allows the rover to create its own path and avoid obstacles like rocks and boulders. The considerable distance covered was necessary get more rock samples from some interesting formations in Jezero Crater.
The rover currently carries six rock samples that are one day expected to be sent back to Earth. In the coming weeks, it will collect two more.
The samples will be drilled out of "Ch'ał" rock type, named after the Navajo term for "frog". These rocks are dark and rubbly, and are a very common sight around the crater.
Perseverance is continuing to move, with the objective to reach a fantastic area by the summer: the remains of an ancient fan-shaped delta formed by a river that fed the lake inside Jezero crater.
Deltas accumulate sediment over time, and there is the hope that by investigating the rocks there could be traces of possible biosignatures – evidence of life – from the time when Mars was more water-rich, compared to the dry frigid desert it is today.